Monday, August 16, 2010

Asian-style soft ball cricket for English schoolkids

If we want English schoolboys to both enjoy cricket and display flair, they should be playing with a soft ball. In other words, English school-kids should be allowed to play like Asians.

Instead of a traditional leather and cork ball, many Asians are brought-up on 'tape ball' cricket - perhaps using a tennis ball wrapped in gaffer tape. This encourages attacking, wristy batsmanship and unorthodox spin and swing.

Of course, there are plenty of good soft cricket balls commercially available with a raised seam, without English schoolboys needing to resort to a tape ball.

The hard ball means danger of injury, hand-jarring and help from the pitch. A softer ball means less fear, more scope for risk-taking, and bowlers who need to try something special.

So, let the ECB recommend *not* to use a hard ball in under 16 cricket, and encourage creativity and adventure from English schoolboys (and, with a soft ball and reduced chance of trauma, maybe more girls too).

Friday, August 13, 2010

Test cricket = Ashes

It looks as if almost every nation's fans are abandoning test cricket except for Australia and England.

No matter - Test cricket can survive and thrive underpinned by only the original duo of Austraila and England - who remain wildly enthusiastic about the Ashes encounters, and who nowadays regard all other Test match contests as merely preparation and practice for the Ashes.

But the Ashes will need to become an annual event - alternating back and forth between Australia and England as at present, but happening twice as often as at present.

Also the Ashes tour programs could be expanded (as they were in the past) to include more warm-ups and friendly 'exhibition' games around the country - i.e. more of a 'scoial' program at the beginning and end of the Ashes proper.

Obviously doubling the frequency would make the Ahses a little less special, but it would be well worth it.

Monday, August 09, 2010

What makes a high quality, long-term test spinner?

1. Accuracy and reliability, obviously.

2. Usually a powerfully-spun (fizzing) stock delivery with lots of revolutions on it; but if not then plenty of bounce at slow-medium pace (e.g. Kumble, SF Barnes, Mendis).

3. A well-disguised variation. At the highest level is is vital that the variation be hard/ impossible to pick. If it is, then the variation need not be anything spectacular - a good 'arm ball' for a slow left arm orthodox/ of-spinner is as good as a doosra- or , and a legspinner's straight delivery is as good as a googly/ wrong-un.

Contrariwise, if the variation is easy to pick then it is pretty useless at the highest level; even if it is a spectacularly-turning googly, an excocet-missile flipper or a high-bouncing doosra.

Swann is evidence of all this. He is the best spinner in the world on the basis of accuracy and reliability, a high-rev off break and a straight 'gyro' ball. In particular he is better than any of the doosra bowlers, because his gyro variation is very difficult/ impossible to pick - unlike most doosras (exceptions being Murali, and perhaps Saeed Ajmal).

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Wicket keeping averages, again

From Cricinfo 6 Aug 2010: "All told, [Kamran] Akmal has dropped 34 chances in his last 28 Tests, and he averages less than 17 in Tests against Australia, South Africa and England."

A wicket-keeper is a specialist fielder with gloves on, and should not drop chances.

Each dropped chance is an extra wicket needed, and each test match wicket costs an average of about 32 runs. Akmal has therefore given away approximately 34 X 32 runs = 1088 runs in 28 tests = 39 runs per test.

Giving away 39 runs per test (plus, probably, quite a few byes), or nearly 20 runs per innings - Akmal would need to have nearly 20 runs taken off his average to give a realistic measure of his contribution to the team.

So Akmal has been worth minus 3 runs per innings to his team - so that any competent wicket keeper who did not drop catches would have been worth more - even if they scored no runs at all!

But even if Akmal had batting average of forty, then this would only translate to a real average of about twenty.

My point is that a wicket keeper who drops chances frequently is *very* unlikely to be worth his place - even if he is a good batter. A reliable keeper who never drops catches would only need to average about mid-twenties in order to be preferable to almost any imaginable unreliable batsman-wicket-keeper.

In other words, the traditional idea of choosing the best wicket-keeper is probably the best idea - and the modern idea of the batsman-wicket-keeper is basically flawed: a result of inadequate statistics.